My dearest girl,

I write this letter to you 3 years after the worst time of your life and hope that these words are what you need to hear as you struggle to get out of bed and find meaning in your life.

Life is hard and so unfair that I weep for you. I think about you all the time and wonder how you dig deep into the well of strength that has always been inside of you. I see that each day is not only a struggle but brings pain with each breath that you take. I sit in awe at the resilience you show even though it doesn’t feel that way to you. You cry from the depths of your soul and I hear the utter devastation of grief.

As you try to catch your breath and talk yourself out of having a panic attack, I see you. I see all that’s messy, hard, ugly and out of control. I see the devastation and unrecognizable woman that grief has ravaged. I see you and I love you. I love you more than I thought possible.

My heart is filled with compassion, heartache, and love for you.

The days that are coming are the hardest of your life. You will find doubt, fear, sadness, self-hatred, and guilt around each bend of this journey. Just when you feel a bit of relief, you’ll encounter another bend on this never-ending maze and be hit across the face again. Each time this happens, you’ll be cut off at the knees again and again.

But you will rise. Each time you fall, you rise. Trust me when I tell you that you will rise each time. Even when you think this is the last time and you’d rather curl up in a ball in the fetal position, you will rise.

You rise because you’re strong, amazing and simply badass. Each time grief takes you down, you rise. You rise through love. Love for Tony who loved you more than anyone else has loved you. In the depths of this love, you find the well of unchartered strength and courage to rise.

I’m so proud of you. I’m proud of each fall and each rise. The fall shows you that you’re moving through the pain of grief and not allowing yourself to remain stuck. And the rise is evidence that you’re fighting your way back to life. Back to a place where you can take a deep breath and feel your lungs expand fully again.

I’m not going to tell you that it will all be ok, that’s bullshit. I won’t placate you with cheap reassurances because I know you hate that. The truth is that I can’t tell you what the future really holds besides courage, strength and a new life. A life that is unknown, a life that I’m still trying to figure out. Whenever I feel uncertain, I think about you. Yes, you. How strong and courageous you are, gives me so much hope for the future. I can tell you that the future holds some peace, joy, and freedom from fear.

You rock and I admire you. Continue kicking ass.

Love, your future self.